JEFFERSONVILLE, Ohio -- A van and a Mercedes were shot minutes apart on an interstate yesterday in a region where a series of 21 sniper shootings have occurred, investigators said.
The gunfire seems consistent with other sniper shootings along Interstate 270 south of Columbus, based on initial evidence, said Franklin County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Steve Martin. He stopped short of linking the two shootings to the serial gunfire.
No injuries were reported in yesterday's shootings, which happened about 11:30 a.m. on Interstate 71 near Jeffersonville, about 40 miles southwest of Columbus, said Jerri Redfern, a dispatcher with the State Highway Patrol.
One person has died in the serial shootings, which have targeted vehicles, schools, and homes since May. Authorities were looking for a dark sports car that may have been connected to the gunfire.
Martin said the shots were fired from two overpasses about 1 mile apart. Witnesses said they saw a white man in his 30s or 40s and a small, dark-colored vehicle on the overpasses. Authorities have said some shots in the previous cases came from overpasses.
At the Flying J travel plaza about a mile from the shootings, a bullet hole was visible in the hood of the Mercedes. After being questioned by an investigator, a man walked back to his car, saying, "I got shot at." He declined to answer questions. Patrol investigator Alan Derikito said the driver was from Mansfield, but would not identify him further.
Authorities had taken two juveniles with a pellet gun into custody after yesterday's shootings, but ultimately determined they were not connected to the crimes, State Highway Patrol Lieutenant Rick Fambro said. The youths were in a car matching the witnesses' description, he added.
"Basically it's a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.
Authorities questioned the juveniles and were releasing them, Fambro said.
One lane of I-71 was closed for part of the afternoon, backing up traffic for several miles, as police searched the area. Officers were seen examining a van parked at a gas station off I-71 and a car parked on the highway shoulder about 2 miles away.
Cars, school buses, and homes have been fired at on or near a stretch of I-270.
A passenger in a car was killed in November.
On Tuesday, a bullet struck the windshield of a van on I-71, which intersects I-270, authorities reported yesterday.
Ballistics tests on the bullet fired Tuesday determined that it is one of at least eight to come from the same gun used in the deadly attack, authorities said.
The shootings started in May, although most have occurred since October.